Weight and Eating Concerns
With our modern lifestyle, the advent of Facebook and Instagram breeding constant instantaneous exposure to images we are supposed to aspire to, the pressure to have the “perfect” body and look has never been greater.
Our culture involves an unrelenting idealisation of the slender body and the perfect body as synonymous with beauty and success. Whilst it is women who experience severe eating disorders in higher numbers, these days that pressure and concern is felt across the gender spectrum (approximately one in ten individuals with an eating disorder is male) and this contributes to depression and can interfere with daily functioning.
Anorexia nervosa is the most serious eating disorder and affects approximately 0.5 percent of people in Australia. A person with this diagnosis deliberately aims to achieve and maintain their body weight at a level where the body does not function normally. They use extreme dieting and over-exercise to achieve this.
Bulimia nervosa is another serious eating disorder affecting around 3 percent of Australians. This involves uncontrolled periods of binge-eating, followed by behaviours designed to compensate for the binge which may include extreme dieting, fasting, excessive exercise, or purging through vomiting or use of laxatives.
These more severe eating disorders require a clinician with specific training and lengthy experience in their treatment.
BayWellbeing therapists can help with other eating related problems involving over-concern with body weight and body image, binge eating without compensatory behaviours or purging without having overeaten. Associated issues that go along with eating problems are low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, shame and guilt. There can be alienation from self and often social withdrawal. Engaging in the behaviours required by the conditions (excessive exercise, ruminating over weight and food, hiding food or evidence of a binge) take time away from regular activities and sufferers lose freedom to engage easily in regular social interactions. The thought of attending a family barbecue or a night out with friends becomes fraught with worry and planning around food or how to avoid it.
Experts agree that with regard to causes it is likely there is a hereditary or genetic component, however there is a complex interaction with social, cultural and personal factors. Research indicates that our culture encourages dieting which predisposes individuals towards eating problems and issues such as problems within the family and personal relationships also contribute. Once the patterns have started, eating disorders become self-perpetuating. Dieting, bingeing and purging help some people cope with painful emotions and perceive a degree of control over their lives.
BayWellbeing therapists can assist with eating problems, over-concern about weight and body image and the self-esteem, identity issues, depression and social isolation that accompanies these issues. We use a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy which assist the client to identify unhelpful and limiting beliefs around food, weight and body image. They are assisted to expand their sense of self and develop ways to reduce self-criticism and increase self-nurture. In addition, the client is assisted to understand the patterns within their family and current relationships which may be contributing to their issues and taught skills to communicate more effectively and change negative patterns.